SAG-AFTRA Confirms Layoffs as Board Approves Commercials Contract

The board also approved the election calendar and received a report about the pension & health plans.

The SAG-AFTRA national board approved the recently negotiated commercials contracts and also a restructuring plan that will include about 60 layoffs, the union announced Sunday. In addition, the board approved the calendar for this year’s biannual elections.

The Hollywood Reporter had previously published exclusive reports that gave the details of the commercials contract, provided news of the layoffs, and set forth the election calendar.

According to the union, the commercials contracts will result in $238 million in wage increases and other payments for all categories of performers, improvements in cable use fees, increases in payments for work on the Internet and new media platforms, and an increase in the late payment fee. The union provided pdf summaries of the television commercials and radio commercials contracts.

That dollar figure is five or six times higher than the $36 million in increases that SAG attributed to its 2009 commercials contract negotiations or the $45 million attributed to the 2006 negotiations. (It’s not completely clear whether the 2006 figure includes Internet work – which would, however, have been minimal at that time – or AFTRA work, but this is believed to be a lesser figure than SAG work.)

“This is a great deal for SAG-AFTRA members,” said national co-president and commercials negotiating committee national chair Roberta Reardon. “We made important gains on these contracts that provide our members with the solid foundation they need to sustain their careers and families.”

“This agreement demonstrates the incredible work of our negotiating committee and the value to our members of the collaborative relationship we’ve developed with the negotiators on the [advertising industry’s] Joint Policy Committee,” said David White, national executive director and chief negotiator.

SAG-AFTRA was represented in the commercials negotiations by Reardon, White, negotiating committee vice chairs Sue-Anne Morrow, Allen Lulu, Ilyssa Fradin and David Hartley-Margolin, co-lead negotiators Ray Rodriguez and Mathis Dunn, and senior advisor John McGuire.

The contract now goes to the members for ratification, which is expected. In connection with what is the first national contract referendum for SAG-AFTRA, the board approved a motion allowing members to vote online, as well as by traditional paper ballots if they prefer.

“Online voting will make more efficient use of our financial resources, advance our efforts to be more environmentally conscious by reducing paper use, and offer members the choice of a voting process that’s most convenient for them,” said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, chief administrative officer and general counsel. “We expect this program to encourage member engagement and to enhance voter turnout in the referendum.”

All members in good standing as of April 1, 2013, will automatically receive a postcard with voting instructions. The postcard will be mailed on or about May 1, 2013. Tabulation of ratification votes received by the voting deadline of May 31, 2013, 5 p.m. PDT (electronically or by mail) will be completed that day.

In other action, the board approved a fiscal year 2014 budget that will lead to what the union called “a strategic restructuring” of its operations. The union said in a statement that the plan “corrects a roughly $6 million structural deficit between revenue and expenses relating to pre-merger legacy costs of the prior organizations.”

The restructuring process calls for the consolidation and closure of 10 of the union’s 25 offices nationwide, and will reduce staff by about 60 positions across the country. The staff reductions will begin in early May, and amount to about 10 percent of the union’s headcount.

THR has learned that the offices to be closed are Michigan, Houston-Austin, Twin Cities, San Diego, Nevada, Arizona-Utah, Portland, Colorado, New Mexico and New Orleans.

Fifteen offices will be maintained, said the union statement, including those in eight major markets and seven broadcast/emerging markets that together represent over 93 percent of the union’s membership.  The eight major markets are Los Angeles, New York, Washington-Mid Atlantic, Chicago, San Francisco, New England, Philadelphia, and Miami. The seven broadcast/emerging markets are Dallas-Ft. Worth, Seattle, Atlanta, Nashville, Hawaii, Ohio-Pittsburgh and Missouri Valley. The geographic restructuring process will take place over the next several months.

“We have addressed a structural deficit that relates to legacy costs and positions the union for long-term health and power,” White said. Prior to the merger of SAG and AFTRA, White had said that the combined union would not lay off anyone as a result of the merger. In addition, a “Top 40 Myth Busters” document issued as part of the merger campaign said “The merger proposal does not anticipate laying off staff members as part of the merger.”

The restructuring plan calls for the creation of a member review committee that will work with the professional staff to review the impact of the transition and report back to the Board in April 2014.

White said that office closures will not mean reduced core services or scaled-back representation in the long-term.

SAG-AFTRA co-president Ken Howard said, “Restructuring is a necessary step to ensure sound operating principles, fiscal resiliency, long-term sustainability and the realization of our mission to provide strong representation and efficient and effective member services far into the future.”

The board also received a report on the progress of reciprocity and/or merger of the SAG-Producers Pension & Health Plans and the AFTRA Health & Retirement Plans, both of which are legally separate from the union itself. The union statement said that trustees of both organizations have established working committees to look at the issue of reciprocity and ultimately merger between the plans, and that discussions are progressing between the two organizations.

The board also reviewed the union’s candidate elections policy and schedule for the 2013 national elections calendar (all times PDT):

May 15 – Nominating petitions available.

June 14 (5 p.m.) – Deadline for submission of petitions and any other required materials.

June 17 – Cutoff for voting eligibility. Members must be in good standing for the 11/01/12 and/or 05/01/13 dues period.

July 16 – Ballots mailed.

August 15 (6:30 a.m.) – Deadline for receipt of voted ballot (in designated election PO Box).

September 26-29 – Convention Elections.

The election calendar in locals varies slightly.

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